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Poverty in Africa
Though the extreme levels of poverty in Africa are what typically define the continent, it has seen rapid economic growth as foreign nations increase investment in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. seeks to expand and increase trade with Africa by way of economic development initiatives. The following article describes two U.S. initiatives that create a mutually beneficial relationship between the U.S. and Africa. These initiatives seek to fight poverty in Africa and accomplish the humanitarian and economic goals of both parties involved.

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

The African Growth and Opportunity Act increases sub-Saharan Africa’s accessibility to the U.S. market with duty-free access to many U.S. commodities, incentivizing investment in the goods of U.S. companies. Sub-Saharan African countries that wish to attain and keep eligibility for AGOA must be actively working towards improved rule of law, human rights and labor standards. This means that these countries must minimize the poverty levels their citizens face. The desire to be part of these trade acts motivates many countries to improve upon their standards of living.

Through the benefits of AGOA, Kenya has become a top exporter of apparel and macadamia nuts to the U.S. Ethiopia now generates about $20 million in footwear exports. South Africa, the largest AGOA beneficiary by value, has increased exports to the U.S. threefold since 2001, totaling $2.9 billion in 2015, and is developing a booming automobile industry. The agriculture industry in South Africa has also flourished under AGOA. The citrus sector alone has generated 85,000 new jobs in South Africa. Since the implementation of AGOA, sub-Saharan Africa beneficiary countries have increased non-energy exports to the U.S. in total by 57.8%. These economic developments create thousands of new jobs every year which helps eradicate hunger and poverty in Africa.

American companies are also benefiting from AGOA. An example is American Augers Inc., who is adding new jobs to its factory by growing its exports to Africa. By committing to laying the fiber optic infrastructure across all of Africa, American Augers Inc. was able to expand and grow its business. This is but one company’s example of how increasing U.S. export to Africa provides jobs anywhere from factory workers to farmers throughout America.

Prosper Africa

Prosper Africa is a recent extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Due to U.S. foreign direct investment statistics in Africa recently declining, Prosper Africa is the Trump administration’s initiative to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa. Making this initiative unique from the original AGOA, Prosper Africa creates a one-stop-shop of U.S. government support services to aid U.S. and African businesses and investors. The initiative also promises to negotiate at least one new bilateral free trade agreement in Africa. This type of agreement can significantly improve the economic activity of a country. For example, the U.S. signed and enforced a free trade agreement with Morocco. Within a decade, U.S. imports from Morocco doubled and U.S. exports to Morocco roughly quadrupled.

Small U.S. businesses in particular are benefiting from the improved, mutually beneficial business climate the initiative creates. An example is the Environmental Chemical Company. While the firm attains economic success through commercial opportunities now made available in Africa, the people of Nairobi, Kenya and the surrounding area are also benefiting from the environmental restoration and social services that the U.S. company is providing. As more U.S. businesses invest, the statistics of poverty in Africa should only see improvement.

Overcoming Poverty in Africa

In a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics from over a decade ago, estimates determined that removing trade barriers and opening up more countries to the global market could help fight poverty in Africa by bringing as many as 500 million people out of poverty and putting $200 billion a year into the economies of those developing nations. AGOA and Prosper Africa’s efforts show that the numbers that the Peterson Institute predicted are an attainable future goal. With increased employment and reliable income, people of sub-Saharan Africa can lift their families above the poverty line. As the fight against poverty in Africa causes poverty rates to decrease, the purchasing power of the region should increase, allowing access to untapped markets.

Hanna Rowell
Photo: Wikimedia

Misconceptions about gender in educationApproximately 115 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school. Another 37 million African children will learn so little in school that attending may not be as advantageous as saving money or putting the children to work. However, education is paramount for improving the economic status of individuals and improving the social and economic standing of communities.

In general, the cost of attending public schools in developing nations is the responsibility of students, families and faculty. Books, supplies and teachers’ salaries are usually the responsibility of students’ families. Cost is only one reason for low school attendance.

Of the children not enrolled in schools, 53 percent are girls. In many cases, girls are denied schooling as a result of the misconceptions about gender in education which place less value on educating girls as opposed to educating boys. The belief centers on traditional gender roles which place more value on women in the home.

Some of the top barriers to education around the world include lack of funding, teachers, classrooms and materials as well as the exclusion of girls and children with disabilities. The reasons for these barriers differ across borders but there are explanations that blame the inequality on misconceptions about gender in education in terms of future success, wages and family planning.

The following facts have been determined to debunk common misconceptions about gender in education in developing nations:

  • Educated women and girls are less vulnerable to HIV as well as various forms of exploitation.
  • Each additional year of education mothers receive reduces child mortality by two percent.
  • Each additional year of schooling for women is associated with a 10 to 20 percent wage increase.
  • Women re-invest 90 percent of their income into their families

Studies have also shown successes in longer school weeks in countries like Colombia. Longer school weeks keep students occupied and prevent exposure to commonly risky situations. Improving access to education for girls has a vast economic impact which increases families’ ability to afford to send more children to school and allows parents to work longer.

This information has spurred initiatives to improve education worldwide specifically for young girls. One initiative is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) whose top priority is ensuring access to complete and quality education for girls with the aim to increase the percentage of girls completing primary school from 74 percent to 84 percent by 2018.

There are several pieces of legislation that have been introduced that aim to improve education and economic status for women. These include the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

The most recent success for legislative activism is the passing of the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act that promotes universal access to basic education for children across the globe especially girls. These acts are reliant upon constituent action so it is important to contact congressional leaders to support them.

– Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActThe African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, was passed into law by the 200th Congress on May 18, 2000. The bill was renewed up to the year 2025 in 2015, during the Obama administration.

The primary purpose of the AGOA legislation is to establish a new trade and investment policy for sub-Saharan Africa, along with expanding trade benefits to the Caribbean Basin. The bill greatly improves the access that sub-Saharan African countries have to the U.S. market.

AGOA seeks to expand U.S. aid to regional integration efforts made by sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening and building upon the private sector in the area, particularly with small businesses and industries owned by women. Encouragement of investment and trade is emphasized by AGOA legislation, as it is indicative of economic development and increased participation in the political process.

To qualify to receive the benefits of AGOA, these countries must follow a set of standards included in the legislation. The eligibility standards include improving its rule of law, following core labor standards and meeting human rights goals. In addition, an acting president has the authority to take away AGOA benefits from any country if it is deemed that a country is not continuing to meet the requirements for eligibility.

“AGOA is AGOA and not just about trade – it’s a relationship framework as I like to say – strategic, military, trade, aid, investment… any costs associated with trade are merely that, minor overheads,” said South African economist and creator of the AGOA.info portal, Eckart Naumann. “The U.S. would be foolish to tamper with this, or withdraw benefits.”

Naumann believes that AGOA has become vital to the interests of the United States along with sub-Saharan African countries. He says that Congress would most likely push back against any efforts to restrict it. U.S. companies and consumers benefit from AGOA due to free-market principles taking effect with both sides profiting from it, and the legislation helps create jobs.

Currently, Congress is considering the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation serves as an extension of AGOA, and it promotes policies that foster trade and cooperation while also aiding eligible partners of AGOA. In addition, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act seeks to create a website that details the benefits of the program, give the Millennium Challenge Corporation more freedom to facilitate trade by permitting up to two compacts within one country and strengthen the accountability of the MCC by making the criteria for reporting requirements stronger. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which was created through the Modernization Act, provides large-scale grants to help create economic growth opportunities in developing countries eligible for AGOA.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act was introduced to the House of Representatives in July as H.R. 3445 and to the Senate as S. 832 in April. Both the House and Senate have not yet made the decision to pass or reject the legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Policy in Africa
In 2000, the Clinton administration established the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), drastically integrating trade as a foundation for economic development in Africa.

In 2015, the Obama administration passed legislation to extend the program until 2025 following the actions of its predecessor, the Bush administration in 2004. Initiatives that set a developmental precedent for Africa have been protected by the Obama administration, but it is paramount to the success of U.S. foreign policy in Africa that development attempts continued to be pursued.

The Power Africa initiative, born during the Obama administration, aims to substantially increase access to electrical conduits and power sources to throttle growth and development in Africa.

Developed in collaboration with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), a projected $3 billion was to be contributed in the initial five years by the AfDB. Methods for allocating power to citizens of sub-Saharan Africa are imperative in establishing partnerships with private investors to facilitate bankable energy initiatives.

The Obama administration reports that private companies and the African government have reached more than a quarter of their goal to generate power for over 3.5 million homes in sub-Saharan Africa. The initial goal to increase power by double within five years was not accomplished, however, much headway was made toward the program’s successful future.

The conclusion of the 2016 presidential elections will be key in determining the likelihood of the security and development of Power Africa, as well as other global health and economic aims for U.S. foreign policy for Africa in 2017.

The United Nations lists the progress of global partnerships for development as Africa’s eighth Millennium Development Goal in attempts to accomplish the major goal of economic growth potential. Further attention to the development of programs such as Power Africa during 2017 amid the next presidential administration is vital to the outcome of such economic integration of Africans into the world market and to foster local businesses.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr